Successful students learn how to creatively think for themselves


Creativity has numerous meanings and applies differently to all students. The importance of getting kids to take risks is to embrace their own curiosity and to be confident in where their minds wander. So it’s up to us to create spaces and cultures of originality to breed these new ideas. Here are thoughts we previously developed from my consulting firm Think Factory. It was for a client who developed a product very similar to Leap Frog but encouraged kids to think “out of the box” on a multitude of topics.

Taking risks can lead to original ideas. So how can parents facilitate risk-taking with their kids?

Well, I think one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of parents make is they spend all their time enforcing rules.

The sad thing about rules is that they don’t teach kids to think for themselves. Kids try to figure out how they can either avoid taking risks altogether, or to take risks that they can get away with. This is as opposed to learning to take sensible risks that will allow them to try new things.

When you study the parents who raised kids who go on to do innovative “things” — like become some of America’s most creative architects — you see this. They focus much more on teaching values than rules.

Instead of, “Here’s the list of things that you’re allowed to do and not to do,” they say, “Here are the principles that are important in this family, and let’s talk about how you want to express them.”

Kids then end up defining the values for themselves, and are much more likely to go against the grain and take risks that allow them to live by these values but don’t necessarily match up with the norms. And the upshot of that is, they’re much more likely to become original. And yes, it’s very much about raising kids to take responsibility for their own thinking.

There is a great deal of group work that takes place in and out of the classroom. So with that said, how does working in groups contribute to original thinking?

Research on brainstorming and group mind mapping, reveals some interesting information. What you see is if you take five students and put them in a brainstorming group together, you will get fewer ideas and less original ideas than if you had taken those same five students and let them work independently, in separate rooms, by themselves.

Teachers find this maddening because it goes against the idea of teaching teamwork and “two heads are better than one.” But a few things that happen that make brainstorming groups less than the sum of their parts.

One is called production blocking, and it’s the basic idea that we can’t all talk at once. And as a result, some ideas and some students just don’t get heard.

Two, there’s ego threat, where kids are nervous about looking stupid or foolish, so they hold back on their most original ideas.

And then, three is conformity. One or two ideas get raised that are popular. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon, as opposed to bringing in some radical, different ways of thinking.

However, when you put kids in separate rooms, you get all of the ideas on the table, and then you can bring the group together for what the group does best – evaluating and idea selecting. And I think that’s where you teach kids to work together effectively in groups.

You can say that individual idea generation work together really well, but then the group can come together to figure out which ideas are the ones to run with.

This column is by Ritchie Lucas, Founder of The Student Success Project and Think Factory Marketing. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or via email at and on Facebook and You Tube as The Student Success Project.

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